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Anti-immigrant sentiment on the rise, new poll shows

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — As asylum seekers continue to arrive in the Republic, a new survey shows a growing racism, with one in three people saying there are now too many minority groups in the country.

There has been a four-fold increase in three years in opposition to people from others races, religions and cultures, according to the survey by Lansdowne Market Research commissioned by the Star newspaper.

Almost a third of adults say they think there are too many minority groups in the country, compared to just 8 percent in 1997.

Romanians, who didn’t even figure in the poll as a minority group that was seen to be "different and disturbing" three years ago, have now taken over the top spot from Itinerants/Travelers.

Causing most concern are Romanians (9 percent), Itinerants/Travelers (5) and Blacks (5). There was a stronger bias against blacks in urban areas, particularly Dublin. Feelings against travelers was strongest in rural areas.

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At a time when there are more people at work than ever before and the Irish government is desperately recruiting worldwide to stem the shortage of skilled workers, 42 percent of the population "tended to agree" that minority groups increased unemployment.

Those who felt the country would be better off without non-EU immigrants has jumped from 5 to 19 percent in the three years.

Only 5 percent of those polled said they felt the country benefited "a great deal" from outside influence, while 28 percent felt it benefits a little.

There were 56 percent who said they felt that minority groups abused the social welfare system and 20 percent wouldn’t want their children to marry someone from a minority.

The growing intolerance is also reflected in the increasing groundswell through the country against government plans to set up accommodation for refugees and asylum seekers.

In some of the developments of accommodation and reception centers, Justice Minister John O’Donoghue has bypassed normal planning channels by making emergency orders to allow the developments.

Here’s a look at what is happening throughout the country:

€ In Kildare, residents are opposing plans for mobile-home units alongside existing accommodation for Kosovar refugees brought in during the NATO bombing campaign.

€ In Waterford, there is unhappiness about the possibility of floating housing, or "flotel," being moored in the city’s port, and in the seaside resort of Tramore the possibility 90 asylum seekers being house there has also be criticized.

€ In Wexford, Rosslare residents have objected to the decision to purchase the local Devereux hotel to accommodate asylum seekers and have demanded it be returned to its original use.

€ In Cork, a residents association is objecting to a hostel proposal for the Rochestown Road area.

€ In Kerry, a councilor, Michael Healy-R’, the son of Independent TD Jackie Healy-R’, objected to plans to house 70 asylum seekers in Kenmare, saying the move would turn it into another "Harlem." He said the majority of asylum seekers were "freeloaders, blackguards and hoodlums."

€ In Dublin 4, residents have gone to the High Court to seek an order, by way of judicial review, to quash a decision to buy premises in Pembroke Road for the purpose of housing refugees. The government have also paid about £5 million to the Franciscan Order for a residential complex at Nutley Lane in Dublin 4.

€ In Carlow, residents have demanded a meeting with Justice officials about the purchase of a retreat center for asylum seekers.

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